Protecting the British royal family is incredibly difficult. Fred Burton, former deputy chief of counterterrorism at the Diplomatic Security Service and the author of GHOST: Confessions of a Counterterrorism Agent, Chasing Shadows: A Special Agent’s Lifelong Hunt to Bring a Cold War Assassin to Justice, and Under Fire: The Untold Story of the Attack in Benghazi joins me to break down some of these security efforts and the challenges he faced on the job.
Levi West, Director of Terrorism Studies at Charles Sturt University in Canberra, returns to look at how terrorists leverage (or don’t leverage) emerging apps and platforms ranging from social media, to encryption, to cryptocurrencies. We do our best to cut through the hype and look at the very real limits and challenges terrorists face when they become early adopters or even sophisticated users of networks where states have a very real advantage.
Australian freelance journalist, commentator, and broadcaster Stilgherrian is back to discuss the battle over encryption and the seemingly irreconcilable differences between governments and privacy advocates. The Australian government has been particularly active in this space lately and Stil has a lot to say about their approach to the problem and how they could drive responses across the G20.
Stilgherrian’s work can be found at ZDNet Australia, Crikey, Technology Spectator, CSO Online, the ABC’s Drum Opinion, the Sydney Morning Herald, and beyond. He appears frequently on Australian television and radio and, of course, has a podcast of his own – The 9PM Edict.
This episode includes another short recollection from Fred Burton. Fred is the former deputy chief of counterterrorism at the Diplomatic Security Service and the author of the best-selling memoir GHOST: Confessions of a Counterterrorism Agent. His other works include Chasing Shadows: A Special Agent’s Lifelong Hunt to Bring a Cold War Assassin to Justice and Under Fire: The Untold Story of the Attack in Benghazi.
I kick off the show with a special announcement. Covert Contact now has a Patreon page. With your support I will be able to ramp up show production (eventually producing episodes daily) and release patron only episodes and updates. Reasonable, informed, and non-partisan discussion of critical issues has never been more important. I hope that you will help push Covert Contact to the next level.
Former CIA Case Officer Patrick Skinner has appeared on Covert Contact several times to discuss intelligence issues and break down significant terrorist attacks. Last year, driven by more than a little frustration and a desire to act locally, Patrick decided to make a fascinating career transition and become a local police officer. In episode 81 I catch up with Patrick, discuss the transition, and we dig into the many ways that what he is learning could inform policing, those in his former profession, and policymakers.
The third week of episodes focused on Australian security perspectives continues with a discussion about Australia’s approach to counterterrorism with Levi West. Levi is the Director of Terrorism Studies at Charles Sturt University in Canberra.
Our discussion is wide ranging and spans how the university’s terrorism program is structured, the legal framework governing security operations inside Australia, community engagement, and the nature of the threats facing Australia.
Covert Contact returns from hiatus with William J. Tucker, a regular contributor on counterintelligence and security topics for Blogs of War and Covert Contact, joining me for a look at the Manchester attack. This episode was recorded shortly after a suicide bomber struck an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England on May 22nd and the discussion reflects what was known at that time.
You can follow William on Twitter @tuckerwj.
In episode 54 I’m joined again by Patrick Skinner, Director of Special Projects for The Soufan Group. Patrick is a former CIA case officer, with a background in federal law enforcement, who specializes in counterterrorism issues. His background, and current work, allow him to look at these events from related, but different, perspectives. Our focus in this episode is on how governments should shift their thinking to better identify and mitigate that which is almost undetectable and unpreventable. It is an immensely challenging problem yet there are patterns that could inform the creation of a different model – a different approach.
Andrew Trabulsi, entrepreneur, consultant, and co-editor of Warlords, Inc.: Black Markets, Broken States, and the Rise of the Warlord Entrepreneur, joins me to discuss the growing impact of transnational crime and how it intersects with destabilizing forces ranging from empowered individuals, to terrorist organizations, to rogue governments.
The key question at the heart of this discussion is our response. How can large bureaucratic organizations, such as the U.S. intelligence community, position themselves to counter incredibly nimble (and increasingly empowered) actors who are unconstrained by law or ethics? We just scratch the surface here but this episode will be followed by several more focused discussions with Andrew as we search for answers.